Wednesday, March 28, 2012

FFWD Crab and Grapefruit Salad

Having spent two-thirds of my life living in Maryland I feel bad saying this, but I have pretty ambiguous feelings toward crab.  I certainly enjoy crab legs or a good crab cake at a restaurant every now and then, and I'll even make crab cakes from time to time, but it just seems so expensive for what it is.  Most of the time I'll make fish cakes, or even zucchini "crab" cakes, and with enough tartar sauce they still taste great and are so much cheaper.

But, like a good FFWDer, I went out to purchase my crab anyway.  I wanted to halve the recipe to save some money, but the store I went to only sells crab in one pound tins (for $29.99!) so I was stuck.  I made the recipe, adding the optional avocado (I've been loving avocado recently) and I served it over arugula.  I made this after work and did not have time for the grapefruit segments to spend more than a few minutes drying out on paper towels, and the salad honestly didn't seem at all wet to me.  Did anybody notice a big difference from doing this?  Anyway, the salad was quick and easy and we definitely enjoyed it, but I wasn't convinced that it was worth the money, and so probably won't be making it again.

To go with the salad, I made the Savory Cheese and Chive Bread with cheddar cheese, and substituting basil for half of the chives.  I also used about one-third whole grain flours and the rest AP flour.  This bread was excellent.  It was quick enough for a week-night, and the texture and flavor were both excellent.  I'll definitely be making this one again.

To round out the meal I made a quick roasted vegetable soup with some leftover frozen vegetables I found in the freezer, and we had blackberry cobbler (with some berries I froze over the summer) for dessert.  All told, a great Monday night dinner.

Friday, March 23, 2012

FFWD Cocoa Sables

I had a very difficult time with these cookies.  First, I accidentally added 1/2 a teaspoon of almond extract before I realized it wasn't vanilla (I have no clue why I completely neglected to read the bottle), but I actually really like chocolate and almond so that turned into a happy mistake.  Then I kept mixing and mixing the dough in my stand mixer, but it just would not come together.  I finally dumped it out onto my counter, and tried using my hands to work smaller pieces of the dough together.  This sort of worked, but I still had a very hard time trying to get it to roll into anything remotely resembling a neat log.  I basically gave up on the idea of it actually being round.  (Does anybody have any tips about how to get/keep rolls of slice and bake cookies round?  I read somewhere to store them in a paper towel tube, but the tube from my paper towels was way too small to actually hold cookies.  This is something that I have never once managed to do successfully.)

But, I finally got the dough together (sort of) and put it in the fridge, hoping that the chilled dough would somehow hold together better.

It didn't.  When I unwrapped the first log it promptly broke into pieces.  I did my best to cut them into slices, mashing them together as necessary on the theory that even if they were ugly they would still taste good.

They certainly aren't the prettiest cookies (and this is the better tray), but by this point I had tasted enough of the batter (love batters that don't have eggs!) to be pretty sure that they would taste good, so I hurried up to bake them.

I really love shortbread cookies and I really love chocolate, but for some reason these cookies just weren't my favorite.  I think I prefer a softer chocolate cookie, and my shortbread to just taste like butter, if that makes any sense.  They certainly weren't bad, though, I'm sure they won't go to waste!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TWD Irish Soda Bread

I know that I've made Irish Soda Bread a couple of times before, but I couldn't remember anything good or bad about it, just that it had raisins.  So this time I decided to follow the basic recipe exactly, just to see what it would be like without any add-ins at all.  It came together incredibly easy.  It took just a few minutes to combine the ingredients and gently mix the dough together.

Shaping the dough was equally quick and easy,

and it looked beautiful coming out of the oven.  (Unfortunately, I'm a space cadet and, even though I was trying so hard to focus and remember to take process pictures this week, I somehow forgot to take a picture of the finished loaf of bread!  But trust me, it was pretty.)

We enjoyed it with butter for Sunday night dinner, alongside some matzoh ball soup and my absolute favorite baked spinach.  We ate a quarter of the bread with our dinner, but I think I remembered why I don't make Irish Soda Bread more frequently.  It's quick and easy and we definitely enjoy it, but the two of us can't eat a whole loaf and it doesn't keep well at all.  As soon as it cooled I cut it into quarters and froze three of them; I'll be curious to see how those turn out.  If they're good, then maybe I'll make the bread again.  Otherwise, I'll probably stick to yeast breads, quick breads that keep better, and biscuits!

The same day I made the Soda Bread I also made Oatmeal Sandwich Bread from Good to the Grain.  I couldn't resist taking photos.  I don't think I've ever actually succeeded in getting bread to rise up over the pan before.  I'm not sure what I did to get so lucky - I'm sure at least part of it is the great recipe (I love this cookbook!) - but it was excellent bread.  A little bit more time consuming than the Irish Soda Bread, but most of the time was just waiting around, and it was delicious and kept excellently for days.

This weeks hosts are Cathy and Carla.  Go to their sites to read their posts and get the recipe, and to TWD to see what everyone else thought of the Soda Bread. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

FFWD Cheese Souffle

The first time I made a souffle it was for a birthday party I threw for Paul.  In hindsight, the fact that I gave this party kind of amazes me.  I've always been very interested in food, and at the time I was definitely watching a lot of Food Network, but I rarely actually cooked.  I was not the least bit confident in my cooking skills, and was too nervous to cook for Paul or anybody really.  But for some reason I offered agreed to host a dinner party for his birthday.  We invited six of his friends to my tiny apartment, and somehow came up with a menu.  He thinks it was my idea, I think I may have given him some ideas but that he definitely made the final choices.  We decided on bruschetta to start (fine, but the least memorable part of the night), with beet salad and lasagna as the main course.  We still love that beet salad, and I actually just made the lasagna again this week.  (I always substitute ground turkey and chicken sausage for the beef and pork and cut down on the sugar, but even though I love making fresh pasta and more complicated lasagnas now, sometimes I still love having a classic lasagna.)

For dessert, I made Ina Garten's Raspberry Orange Trifle (a bit time consuming, but truly excellent!) and a Sara Moulton chocolate souffle (I can't find the recipe).  If I had known that souffles were supposed to be scary and hard to make there's no way I would have agreed to make it.  But I knew too little to be scared.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.  Sara made the recipe sound easy enough, and I liked that I could prepare the souffles ahead of time and just bake them off when I was ready to serve dessert.  When it was time for dessert I put out the trifle and had everybody sit down, and then I pulled my souffles out of the oven and brought them immediately to the table.  They had risen beautifully, and everybody got to see them before they started to sink.  It was a great night.

Since then, I've never been afraid of souffles.  I've made dessert souffle a few more times, and have also made a few different cheese souffles.  We loved this cheese souffle.  It was reasonably easy to put together, and came out puffed and golden.  The only problem was that although it looked done, when I started to serve it I realized that the middle wasn't cooked properly.  The first problem I've ever had with a souffle!  Luckily it was just the two of us, so I served us each a (cooked) portion from the outside, covered it with foil, and put it back in the oven.  I was pretty annoyed at myself, though.  I had a feeling the top was cooking too quickly, but I was afraid to open the oven to cover it with foil, so I took my chances and was wrong.  Oh well, it still tasted great.  Next time I'll know to turn the oven down a bit, and/or be brave and use the foil.

Friday, March 9, 2012

FFWD Saint-Germain-Des-Pres Onion Biscuits

I love all biscuits.  I don't know why I don't make them more often.  My all-around favorite is probably George Greenstein's Angel Biscuits, but I also love Martha Stewart's Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits, and enjoy the Low-fat Moosewood Homemade Biscuits when I feel like being a little bit healthier.  So, how do these compare?  I almost always have all of the ingredients for these on hand, which is a definite plus.  I absolutely love that I literally had them in the oven 10 minutes after I started them, and we were eating them 20 minutes later.  I also liked the nice fluffy layers, and the mild onion flavor.  These won't take the place of my three favorite biscuit recipes - and won't stop me from wanting to try out almost every biscuit recipe I see - but we certainly enjoyed them and I would make them again if I needed something quick to complete a meal.  To see what all of the other FFWD bloggers thought of the biscuits, go here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TWD Rugelach

In my family, rugelach are definitely a special occasion dessert.  My mom will usually make them for the High Holidays, but that's about it.  Even though (maybe because?) I love my mother's rugelach so much, I've never actually tried making them myself.  I was very excited to try this recipe.  I decided to go with the apricot lekvar and to halve the recipe, because it would be only my husband and I eating them.  

Was anybody else confused by the amount of lekvar?  By my calculation, the recipe required 2 cups of lekvar but because I was halving the recipe I only needed 1 cup.  But then the lekvar recipe said the yield was 3/4 of  a cup, so I decided to double the lekvar recipe.  I think I ended up with at least 4 cups of lekvar.  Maybe I misread it (I don't have the book with me right now to double-check), but 3/4 of a cup yield does not seem right.  I ended up freezing the extra 3+ cups of lekvar.  Does anybody have any ideas for what to do with it?

This recipe definitely took some work, but I split it into stages and didn't think it was too bad.  I made the dough on Saturday night, made the lekvar and fillings and rolled the rugelach Sunday morning, and cut and baked the cookies on Sunday evening.  The only thing I wasn't happy about it is that I wasn't able to roll them as tightly as I wanted to, and completely failed to get that pretty spiral pattern.  I could barely get the edges of the dough to connect at all.  My husband used to work in a doughnut shop, and he told me afterward that it would have worked better if I had only put the filling down the center of the dough, and had left more room on the edges.  Oh well.  Now I know for next time.

I definitely had some problems with the filling spreading - especially with the bottom batch which I baked on layered cookie sheets.  The top batch, which I baked on layered half sheet pans, held up a bit better.  That didn't stop me from eating one of these as soon as they came out of the oven, however.  I was very excited, but after a few bites it seemed very, very sweet to me and I decided that these were only okay.  I put some of the cookies in a Tupperware and froze the rest for later.  The next morning I woke up, saw the cookies, and, before I could talk myself out of eating cookies for breakfast, found myself standing in my kitchen at 7am eating rugelach.  And I loved it.  When I thought about it, I realized that I had never eaten warm rugelach before.  I think rugelach are definitely the kind of cookies that are best at room temperature.  So, in conclusion, I'm definitely glad I tried this recipe and definitely enjoyed these, but I think I'm going to ask my mom for her recipe and see how it compares for next time!

Jessica and Margaret are our hosts for the week, visit their sites for the recipe.  To see what everybody else thought of the rugelach, go here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

FFWD Roasted Salmon and Lentils

When I saw the recipe schedule for this month I was very excited - great choices - but also knew that I wouldn't be able to make this week's recipe before Friday.  So this will be a very short post.  The combination of salmon and lentils sounded strange to me the first time I heard it, but I've been using Sara Moulton's recipe for a while now.  It calls for pancetta, but I always use her recommended substitution of smoked salmon, and also calls for vinegar and mustard.  I love it.  I think the mustard really balances out the richness of the fish.  I didn't think Dorie's recipe had as nice of a flavor.  What saved it for me was the truffle oil.  I absolutely love truffle oil, and also used this as an excuse to use some of the truffle salt that I brought back from Oregon.  With these ingredients we certainly enjoyed the dish, but I don't think it would've had enough flavor without them.

To see what other FFWD bloggers thought of the recipe, go here.